Female Viking warriors: truth or fiction?

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,968
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Yeah, Like I said before: It was just as common to have a woman in combat as it was having an 11-year old boy in battle.
Note that you wrote about women in combat and 11-year-old boys in battle. Being in battle is not exactly the same thing as fighting in combat, and so throughout history there have been many boys in battle, even 11 years old and younger, even though many of the younger boys did not fight but performed other military functions.
 

MAGolding

Ad Honorem
Aug 2015
2,968
Chalfont, Pennsylvania
Are you serious? Maybe because women are far less physically strong than their male counterparts? Maybe because women had to fulfill duties when the man went to battle?

Let me reverse the question, do you think the warriors took with them 11-year old boys? Why not? Now you have your answer.
By the way, have you seem my thread "Youngest Viking?" in the Medieval and Byzantine History Forum?

http://historum.com/medieval-byzantine-history/94161-youngest-viking.html
 

AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,192
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Germanic women at Aquae Sextiae

May be to have a more comprehensive perspective about how Romans knew the Germanic and Celtic women, we could focus a bit the attention on how Plutarch described the events of the bloody battle at Aquae Sextiae.

While the battle was proceeding Romans were able to push the enemies back, until they were near to the enemy camp [where their women were following what was going on].

What did those women do?

Plutarch tells us:
Here the women met them, swords and axes in their hands, and with hideous shrieks of rage tried to drive back fugitives and pursuers alike, the fugitives as traitors, and the pursuers as foes; they mixed themselves up with the combatants, with bare hands tore away the shields of the Romans or grasped their swords, and endured wounds and mutilations, their fierce spirits unvanquished to the end. So, then, as we are told, the battle at the river was brought on by accident rather than by the intention of the commander.
[Source of the translation: Plutarch, Life of Marius p517 - Plutarch ? Life of Marius]

This is what I was intending saying that Celtic and Germanic women [Teutones and Ambrones were more Germanic than Celtic, about the Teutones there is no a general agreement about, may be they had also Celtic linkages] were not regular warriors, but they were "combat ready". Relying on the description of the facts made by Plutarch, the Germanic women acted like a rare guard [also hitting the fugitives of their own army, this is a quite military behavior, but of course we cannot say they had ordered to do it in case the battle was going wrong and Germanic warriors tried and escape, we cannot sustain this].

They fought because of necessity, but to face "with bare hands" Roman auxiliaries and / or legionaries being able to take their weapons is something which suggests a certain ability in combat.
 
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AlpinLuke

Forum Staff
Oct 2011
27,192
Italy, Lago Maggiore
Different mismatch

Then we can take a look at how Romans saw the Gaul / Celtic and Germanic women, just to underline that for a common Roman of that age, the mismatch with a Gaul woman wasn't that evident ...

For example Diodorus Siculus [5, 32] says
The women of the Gauls are not only like men in their great stature, but they are a match for them in courage as well.
Note the reference to the physical aspect of "the women of the Gaul". They were well taller than the common Roman or Greek woman ... so taller to be like men.

And how did Romans saw these women regarding their attitude about fighting?

Ammianus Marcellinus told something about ...

A whole band of foreigners will be unable to cope with one [Gaul] in a fight, if he calls in his wife, stronger than he by far and with flashing eyes; least of all when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth, and poising her huge white arms, begins to rain blows mingled with kicks, like shots discharged by the twisted cords of a catapult.
Of course, the impressive look of Gaul women generated admiration and so exaggeration. It's a typical process of human psychology: when we see something extraordinary, in the sense of out of ordinary, we tend to consider it totally extraordinary ... it's a kind of fascination, if we want.

A tall woman can be fragile as a little woman if not well fit [think to a slim fashion model]. So Ammianus, noting that Gaul women were so tall and strong, he even imagined that they were stronger than their own men! And "by far" ... He was overall impressed by the feral behavior ["when she swells her neck and gnashes her teeth"].
 
Sep 2015
31
Norway
Well the documentation exists as runes on stones and objects, such as the Eggjum stone. I believe we are talking of different things here.

Personal belongings with runes on them including names found in the Danish bogs shows that some of the warriors could write. Big deal.
Yes, but this is very limited information. The Eggjum stone for example contains only 6 sentences. None of the few known rune scripts contains any information that could support or reject the myth of the shieldmaidens, as far as I know.
 
Sep 2015
31
Norway
The existence of shieldmaidens are documented in a number of sagas, like Hervors saga and Volsungesagn.
But these sagas are based on oral information, and arguably also contain some degree of mythical content.

I do not think we will get any closer to a solution in this thread.
I can not se any decisive argument here that would either confirm or reject any female participation in combat, but we all agree that it was not common.

Although the majority of historians seem to agree upon the existence of the shieldmaidens, others argue the lack of hard evidence.
So the question is really; how much evidence do you need to believe?
 
Last edited:
May 2017
1,186
France
These legends are eternal.When France invaded Dahomey (1890-1892),a lot of stories have been built about the "Amazones" of the king Béhanzin.In fact,in some societies women have in their traditions to follow the men and to encourage them when the situation needs it.Their participation is allways described with emotion but must not be exagerated.At the time of the "first Empire" some officers with feminine sides have been presented as women who didn t want to stay "cantinieres" and who worked as "éclaireurs".And the legend continues…..